When you arrive at the track and park your RV, you expect the campground to get more crowded as the week goes along. The same applies to the grandstand. Thursday brings out your camper-wanderers. They stroll along the frontstretch watching the advance production crews begin to wire the place for Sunday. Friday invites the early race fans in with qualifying festivities and maybe a local feature. Saturday, the excitement continues to build with the arrival of the Nationwide Series, culminating in the massive Sprint Cup event on Sunday. By then, at least in days gone by, you can’t wiggle enough room between your seatmates to comfortably settle your bottom. It’s something akin to insane, all these fans squashed into one place on one day.
I did mention “in days gone by.”
Early Saturday afternoon I grabbed a couple prime seats in the middle of Turns 1 & 2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with my cooler and husband. Plenty of other folks arrived. We exchanged excitement for the upcoming Whelen Modified Tour race, and the weekend in general. Then focused on the track–because the Sunoco 100 was one hell of a race. The leaders traded off lap after lap. It was indeed a Loudon classic. Bobby Santos, III sailed past Teddy Christopher on the last lap for the win. It was a thrilling, on your feet, kind of a race.
And then they left. Not just the Modifieds. The fans!
The Nationwide race was due to take the green in just about an hour. The stands emptied out–I figured for burgers and restrooms. But, the fans never came back. And the ones that did? Well, as Brad Keselowski made it clear there wouldn’t be any meaningful competition today, the rest followed suit. Lap after lap saw seat after seat vacate.
NASCAR Nation has been saying it for years. The product being offered up for our consumption is subpar. If the best crowd on Saturday shows up for a racing series not even part of the development system, NASCAR is broken into tiny little bits. Can a major racing venue still bring in 30,000 people for a secondary series? Sure, but the New Hampshire fans spoke loud and clear, what they really want to see is competitive action, not big names. Certainly not the big names. I haven’t had so much room around me on Sunday afternoon since I can’t remember.
So, if the fans won’t come out for the fancy sponsor painted series on Sunday, wouldn’t it be better if we had the big party on Saturday night?
The subject of installing lights at New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been a favorite topic among fans and management for years. What would lights bring? More fans?
The front-end math might be misleading. Yes, I believe the Cup race would sell more seats for the one-night show. However, as far as those who invest their weekends in a NASCAR race, the loss of one of the days is…disappointing. Gone would be the never-ending tailgate party, campfires that don’t quite go out, and the wonder of enjoying multiple series during one overdose of NASCAR. Besides, the current set-up still brings in around 30,000 fans on Saturday, adding to the 70,000-80,000 that attend on Sunday. People aside, the most money would be generated from new television and sponsor opportunities that a Saturday night broadcast would bring; just more cash for those that already have billions in their pockets.
However, trying to fix a lack of dollars coming in from ticket sales, to be traded off for TV ads is short-sighted. If fans are vacating their seats when the superstars take to the track, nobody should be thinking about what day is the better one to race on, but how to bring the excitement of the Modified races back to the top tiers of stock car racing.
Then you won’t have to worry about how to sell more tickets, but where to put more seats.
2014 Sonya Strictly by the Stats
Top Three Rookies for 2014 Camping World RV Sales 301
1.) No. 42 Kyle Larson Started 13th Finished 3rd (1st in RoTY standings)
2.) No. 3 Austin Dillon Started 23rd Finished 14th (2nd in RoTY standings)
3.) No. 26 Cole Whitt Started 35th Finished 28th (5th in RoTY standinds)
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